Without the competition of open source, I doubt Microsoft's trend toward bureaucracy could have ever been slowed. Every company goes through its own aging process, and renewal only occurs under pressure.
Open source has strained every muscle Microsoft has -- legal, marketing, development, management -- but the recession of the last year has brought a turn. Resistance within the open source industry to Microsoft's entry has gone down. This is easy to see in the writings of our own Matt Asay.
The success of the CodePlex Foundation has given Microsoft another entree into the Fortunate 500. It has allowed Microsoft to be the rabbi of these companies as they approach open source, making strategic code releases and building their own internal communities.
Then there have been Microsoft's own code releases, which have accelerated since OSI approval of its branded licenses. Plus that sweet, sweet Windows 7 cash.
All in all, a good year. A year of peace and progress. And I can hear you grinding your teeth from here.
Despite all of Microsoft's actions these last few years, the company remains intensely controversial among open source advocates. For me to write the word Microsoft (Microsoft, Microsoft) here at the open source blog leads to a Pavlovian response.
Actually it leads to two Pavlovian responses. There's the "Microsoft is evil" response, and a corresponding "Microsoft is not evil" response. And this distrust, this air of controversy, continues to cost Microsoft money.
Microsoft executives still have to walk into open source meetings with shields up, while continuing to protect their bureaucratic flanks within the company. This is easy to see when you hear the smiles on former Microsoft open source executives as they speak from their new gigs. It's wearing.
Since I began writing this blog, nearly 5 years ago, I have watched Microsoft seek to transform itself from a company that sold code to one that sells the services code provides, and I have watched open source projects see the value in having commercial arms that protect more of their right to make money from copyright.
What I have not seen is any reduction in intensity when I write the word Microsoft, from readers, e-mail correspondents, or the open source people I meet.
Why is that, I wonder. Are all those who hate Microsoft extremists, and will Microsoft ever find happiness in an open source world?